Remembering Kathy

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Was be-bopping around the house today tidying for the impending visit of my father-in-law and his terrific wife when the “Hallelujah Chorus” came on the radio and stopped me dead in my tracks.  Reason for this is twofold:

1)  I was a member of my high school chorus for three and a half years, and I don’t know how many times we performed that piece of music.  Enough so that to this day I still can sing the alto version pretty darned well (and make a presentable stab at all the other parts, too).

But it’s the second reason that has the greater impact:  That song never fails to remind me of Kathy Biedron.

Kathy sat beside me in chorus, a stroke of luck for me on many levels.  Not only was she truly one of the world’s good people — a nice girl with a generous heart full of genuine kindness for everyone around her — but she also had perfect pitch (and I mean PERFECT) which kept me from going off on some weird vocal tangent.

Through our involvement in chorus and drama club, Kathy and I became friends.  We weren’t what you’d call ‘real close’ (meaning we didn’t hang out together after school), but I considered her a friend and held her in high esteem.  Never has there been a more giving individual, a more tireless worker, or a more enthusiastic cheerleader.  She busted her hump on every endeavor she chose to put her hand and heart to.

Kathy was a year ahead of me in school, so when she graduated and went off to college, we sort of lost touch.  I was friends with her younger brother Will (a year behind me in school as I had been a year behind her), and he kept me apprised of what Kathy was involved with in the wider world beyond the walls of Shenendehowa High.  (I can’t vouch for my memory after so many years, but I think she was pursuing a degree in music.  If not, I do know that music continued to be a driving force in her life.)

Then I graduated and, in the course of time, lost touch with those I had left behind.  I heard through the grapevine that Kathy had married…and it was through that same grapevine that I learned of her death in a car wreck a couple of years ago.

Words fail.  I can’t express how hard the news hit me.  It was one of those moments — we all have them — when a wall of denial rises up inside you and you think “No, this just can’t be.  If this is true, there is no sense in the world.”

Apparently, there is no sense in the world.

She comes to my mind now and then through the course of the year’s turning, but she’s always with me at Christmas.  That’s fitting, I think.  When I remember Kathy, it’s her smile I see first, followed immediately by the bright shine of her eyes.  I hear her ready laughter and feel the touch of her enormous compassion.  And I think that maybe, just maybe, I hear the rustle of an angel’s wings.  Because I’ll tell you something:  if anyone, anyone at all on this great green Earth of ours, deserved to earn her wings, it was Kathy.

God bless, old friend.  You are not forgotten.



About Melissa Crandall

Longer ago than I care to admit--although I will--I cut my writing teeth on fanzines and media tie-in novels. Since then, I've moved on to narrative nonfiction, speculative fiction, and essays. I write to explore and understand the world around me, the things I see and experience nearby or from a distance. If I shake myself up, cool. If I shake you up, even better. Not gratuitously--what's the point in that?--but to set what I know, or think I know, on end and realize, "Well, doesn't it look different from this side!" My work is neither sexually explicit nor graphically violent. Let's face it - your imaginations will come up with things far worse than anything I could write, no matter how descriptive. Besides, it's just not my thing. I live in Connecticut with my supportive husband Ed, a cat named Ruby who might just think she's a dog, and an epileptic Australian shepherd named Holly who isn't quite certain anymore who she is, except she knows she loves her mommy.
This entry was posted in Angels, Clifton Park, Essays, Friendship, Gratitude, Grief, Life, Loss, love, Melissa Crandall, Memory, Music, Relationships, Shenendehowa and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Remembering Kathy

  1. Susan Sovik Streeter says:

    Melissa- So strange that you would write this. I too sat near her in chorus at Shen, and in the church Choir at St Georges. I feel very grateful to have known her. She was 3 years my senior, and I traveled in different circles in high school looking for who knows what, but I always really admired her. More so as I grew older and wiser. I always admired the way she did her own thing. It takes a great deal of inner strenght to do that, and I wish that I could have been more like her in that regard when I was younger- heck, even now!

    I only saw her a few times after high school-usually on Christmas Eve at midnight mass when everybody would come home and we would all be in the choir again and sing- The last time was shortly before she died. She and her husband were getting ready to go back overseas.

    I don’t know that one could say we were close friends- but we were definitly good friends. Thank you for writing that lovely tribute.

    • Susan, thank you so much for writing. (I remember you!) I feel as you do and wish that I had had the nerve to follow in Kathy’s footsteps a lot sooner than I did. Trying so hard to fit in anywhere, fitting in nowhere, and total UNaware that the only person I needed to “fit” with was…ME! The best remembrance we can give Kathy is to live as she lived and pass it on.

  2. Will says:

    OK, so I finally have time to reply to this – busy week of singing and music with family and friends. Big surprise, right? (I sang the Hallelujah Chorus twice in the context of 5 performances and heard it in another.)

    Melissa – First off, thank you for your writing, but more importantly for remembering the essence of Kathy so well. You captured plenty of who she was in your short piece. “All-In” is absolutely right. I have to confess that as the younger brother a force of nature like Kathy, I never totally understood her. She was “weird and different” according to many friends of mine who knew her in High School, and I always attributed that to the fact that my family moved 6 times before I was in 7th grade. For Kathy it was even worse, landing in a huge suburban school system in 9th grade with no friends and limited confidence. She made it through with music as her core.

    I respected her much more as I got older, but in a somewhat begrudging manner because her path through life was so damn unconventional. Maybe I was jealous. Now that she’s been gone for a decade (sigh), I increasingly respect her talents and her constant drive to dance to her own drum. We should all be so lucky as to have such a good internal drum, and the courage not to ignore it. Even today, I struggle with the tension between what I need to do and what I’d love to do, but Kathy was very much at peace with all of that, and the resulting freedom seemed to spin energy off of her to everyone else like streams of light. It’s a shame we all lost her so early, but her lessons-by-example for us are clear.

    I have 4 children (13 year-old daughter and 9-year-old triplets, two girls and one boy), and I immerse them in music constantly, partly as a tribute to all of my family. The kids all take piano and sing, and we’ve had trumpets, violas and violins as practice instruments, along with the pile of instruments that I got when I cleaned out my parents house. We have two grand pianos and a Christmas piano recital coming up tonight, and all 6 of us will be singing “O Holy Night”. We sing grace at the dinner table, etc. etc. Beyond the whole legacy thing, I also believe that having music in your life is an invaluable asset that pays dividends in countless ways until the day you die. My parent’s memorial service was a testament to all of that, with over 60 people participating in the service musically.

    Oh, and “shit-eating grin”? Hmmmm I guess I’ll take it. Humor helps in almost every situation.

    Thanks! WSB

    • Will,
      Thank you so much for your response to my essay about Kathy. If I captured her well (and I’m grateful that you think I did), you provided such insight. Kathy was “different” in many ways. Hindsight being 50/50, I’d have to say they were all good ways. Her determination to follow her life’s path no matter what obstacles a mean-spirited world threw in her way is to be commended and admired. I would never in a million years have guess that she suffered from limited confidence. She was so amazing a person…a performer. I am grateful beyond words that for a brief time she considered me her friend.

  3. John says:

    This is a lovely tribute. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Lynn says:

    What a lovely tribute to her and I remember her the same way. Hope Will sees this!

  5. Laurie Andrews-Lester says:

    Melissa, Kathy did pursue music and theatre. She was a key member of Covenant Players (as was her husband – that’s where they met) for many years. They toured around the world performing Christian musicals in the language of whatever country they were performing in. She was fluent in many languages. She loved what she was doing. Her death was indeed a tragedy. It hit many of us very hard. Sadly Will lost both of his parents in a similar fashion a couple of years ago. It was a tough time. His brother-in-law who was still grieving himself, helped Will out immensely as did a group of us when it was time to sell the Biedron’s home. Will is, however doing well has 4 kids a daughter and triplets (2 boy and a girl), all who carry that ever present Biedron gift of music.

    • Laurie, thank you so much for the information. Our loss of Kathy was a tragedy (I believe) of worldly proportion. She gave so much of herself to the world at large. And poor Will, to have suffered such a tragedy not once but three times. I remember him well and miss his wry, gentle humor in my life. (And that shit-eating grin he would flash.) Glad to hear that he is doing well and has passed his (and Kathy’s) wonderful gift to music to his children.

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